On the edges of picture perfection
What is the Samsung UE65KS9000?This 65-inch 4K HDR TV sits near the top of Samsung’s SUHD TV range in 2016 – just beneath the recently released KS9500 - and boasts approval as an Ultra HD Alliance Premium TV. In addition to supporting High Dynamic Range, the UE65KS9000 boasts an Ultra HD resolution, edge-lit local dimming behind its curved screen and quantum dot technology to expand the amount of available colours. The 2016 Samsung Smart TVs will once again run on the Tizen operating system and come IoT (Internet of Things) ready. Also in the range is the 49-inch UE49KS9000 and 55-inch UE55KS9000. At current prices (June 2016), the 65-inch KS9000 is generally available online for £2,899 although there are various deals and promotions knocking around.
DesignThe KS9000 utilises what Samsung terms a 360 degree design, which basically means they’ve paid some attention to how it looks at the back, and not just the front. In practise, that amounts to a textured, charcoal finish and an attractive silver strip just below centre which blends near seamlessly with the neck of the base stand when attached. There’s also a detachable panel to cover the connections not housed in the One Connect Box (more below), although the opening for the cables is too narrow and we struggled to get two inserted without it self-detaching.
You’ll need a minimum of 89cm width to your AV furniture in order to accommodate the entire breadth of the angled base-stand, which is finished in chrome and materially complementary to the trim surrounding the bezel. In fact, the KS9000 is virtually bezel-less in measuring 0.5cm, top and sides, 1cm at the bottom. There’s a discrete Samsung logo in the centre of the bottom bezel which is illuminated but you can switch it off in the menus if you find it distracting. While the stand is contemporary and attractive, the option to wall-mount exists using just a standard 400 x 400 VESA bracket, despite the curved nature of the screen and chassis.
Connections & ControlTo potentially minimise the number of cables on show, the KS9000 ships with the One Connect Box Mini which measures 21.5 x 7 x 2cm (WxDxH) and houses the majority of inputs and outputs available. Those include four HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 compliance – as verified by our trusty Murideo Fresco Six-G – a brace of USB 2.0 ports, twin satellite and terrestrial tuners and an optical digital output. The remaining connections are situated on the back panel and comprise a further USB 2.0 port, an Ethernet input – there’s built in dual-band Wi-Fi too – and a Common Interface (CI) slot. This is also where the One Connect cable terminates but, as we said above, you’ll struggle to get the clip on panel to fit nicely with it and an Ethernet cable also inserted.
The new Smart Controller, on the other hand, looks much more the part with its two-tone, black and silver finish and ergonomically curved body. There’s a navigation pad right where your thumb comes to rest, a power button, top-left, and the number select and ‘Extra’ buttons also toward the top. The Smart Controller also has a microphone built-in which can be used to change channels, change volume, search the web and more. The real (near) USP of the Smart Controller, however, is the fact that it can act as a universal remote to control all your equipment connected via HDMI. On plugging any of your devices in to the KS9000 a message will flash up asking you if you wish to set up the Smart Controller with them, which involves pointing it at said kit until its recognised and the infra-red commands downloaded and stored. It’s a useful feature and for simple operations works very well but it can be operationally cumbersome if the attached device has complex functionality. For example, we had our TiVo box hooked up and using the Smart Remote to exit from the programme guide is trickier than it should be. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and Samsung seems to have a lot of devices in its database as it was able to control just about every box we had.
Features & SpecsThe UE65KS9000 features a cadmium-free, 10-bit Quantum Dot display and, this year, all of the Samsung SUHD TVs will feature the ability to provide a premium high dynamic range (HDR) experience, with at least 1,000 nits of peak brightness. New Ultra Black technology uses a moth-eye filter to reduce light reflection and minimise glare. Naturally, the KS9000 features an Ultra HD 4K panel which is curved and there’s an edge-based local dimming system for precision lighting. The KS9000 is claimed to reach 98% of the DCI colour space, which we’ll be checking out below.
The 2016 Smart Hub is powered by Tizen and is designed to provide users with simple access to their favourite content all in one place. Live TV, streaming services, games and even the menu are included. In practise, it’s very well laid out and, as per the billing, extremely easy to use; we have to say it bears more than a passing resemblance to LG’s WebOS platform but that’s no bad thing. Selections are presented in a ribbon at the bottom and by default include your most used apps, inputs and services. Some customisation is possible, including adding your favourite channels – from the built-in tuner, or connected set-top-boxes, which is very handy.
As you would expect from Samsung TVs, there are a very comprehensive selection of apps available, including Ultra HD streaming via both Netflix and Amazon. In the case of Netflix, the HDR version of Marco Polo (more titles to follow) is available but Amazon’s HDR titles are not yet there to stream in that format. Other strange omissions include all the major UK catch-up services, so there’s no iPlayer, ITV Hub or All 4 on offer and we’ve contacted Samsung to find out when they will be added as they are on older Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players. We’ve a full review of the Tizen platform to come, as there’s too much to mention in the confines of a Television write up, so stay tuned for that.
Samsung UE65KS9000 Recommended Settings
Picture Settings: Out-of-the-BoxAs ever, the most accurate picture mode available on a Samsung TV is labelled ‘Movie,’ and it takes out most of the heavy lifting in getting your television looking as good it can, without calibrating. In fact, Samsung has now stripped out quite a few of the unnecessary processing options (and added a couple) with any serious adjustments having to be made from a sub-menu labelled ‘Expert Settings.’ Other than getting the Backlight, Brightness and Contrast options correct for your viewing room, all we would really suggest is disabling Auto Motion Plus or, at the very least, altering it to a Custom Setting with conservative use of the Blur and Judder Reduction options; you might like to experiment with the LED Clear Motion option which uses a black frame insertion technique, rather than interpolation which tends to look very false, but you’ll need to up the Backlight slider as it inevitably reduces the overall brightness of the picture. We would also suggest setting Sharpness to zero (especially for HD and Ultra HD sources) and setting Smart LED to Low, else you are likely to see haloing effects around bright objects on dark backgrounds.
Looking at the measured results for the default Movie mode setup and we can see the KS9000 is in pretty reasonable shape, and certainly many times better than the other modes, although there’s definite room for improvement.
The charts above demonstrate that greyscale tracking – as described by the RGB Balance graph – is not too bad but there’s a relative lack of green energy throughout and a corresponding excess of red and blue. We can also that at full stimulation, i.e. white, the sudden spike of Blue in the mix which is actually caused by the panel clipping information due to the Contrast being set at maximum; notching it down to 95 levelled things out without even touching the White Balance controls. Gamma, i.e. the luminance of the greyscale, isn’t tracking ideally for a dark room at the factory setting but if you’re placing the KS9000 in to a well-lit room, it’s set about right. The DeltaE 2000 column graph shows the overall errors in the greyscale and with an average of around four, when we’re looking for a maximum average at two, or below, there’s work to be done with the calibration controls.
Next we checked out the colours, as against the Rec.709 standard used in production and delivery of HD video.
Here, the coloured dots represent the measured results where the little boxes are the targets and the KS9000 could, again, be doing better. Green is slanted toward yellow and both red and blue are tending to under-saturate at lower levels in the Auto Colour Space pre-set. Resultantly, the secondary colours, made up of a combination of the Red, Green & Blue pixels, also suffer slightly.
Picture Settings: CalibratedThe calibration controls in Samsung TVs are generally very good and fairly easy to use without introducing backdoor problems. There are both two and ten-point White Balance options available in the menus and we used the former to get a good general tracking and the latter to fine-tune and ‘flatten’ the gamma response.
As we can see, the balance of red, green and blue in the greyscale became near perfect and gamma tracked far more closely to our target of 2.35, which is ideal for the room where the KS9000 was situated during the review. Having said the calibration controls are usually spot-on, we couldn’t fully tame the spike of blue at 10% stimulus and nor could we get gamma to target there either. No amount of manipulation caused any significant shift in the mix and there’s a point where you fear you’ll be doing more harm than good in maxing out the settings. In fairness, the errors would only noticeable to the trained eye and LED LCDs tend to have rather blueish blacks in any case.
The Colour Management System proved mostly effective in ironing out the errors in the colour gamut, although some compromises had to be made. At the expense of over-saturating red at full stimulus, we got the lower stimulation levels at, or very near, target and the same applied to the Blue primary, although to a lesser extent; if you’re going to over-saturate it’s much better done at maximum levels as the eye will be incredibly pressed to see it. We also managed to bring green away from yellow, albeit to a lesser extent at 75% saturation but, again, it would be a very difficult error to determine by eye and the general palette was in superb shape once calibration was complete.
Picture Settings: High Dynamic RangeWhile we’re all very excited about the current industry shift to Ultra HD/4K and HDR video, it has to be noted that we’re in the very early stages of the (r)evolution and, as such, the calibration controls currently available aren’t as effective with the new standards as they are the older existing ones. When we say the existing, as far as UK readers are concerned, that means the Rec.709 colour gamut standard, 8-bit colour depth and content that was likely to have been mastered at 100 nits. The new standards see content being mastered in 10-bit colour depth, a peak brightness of 1,000nits, and above, using the Rec.2020 colour container. To confuse matters further, the content is mastered in the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) P3 colour gamut, which is somewhere between Rec.709 and Rec.2020. We still have to test it, of course, so we now measure TV performance against the PQ EOTF (it’s the new gamma) and against the Rec.2020 colour gamut, although there’s no TV currently capable of getting anywhere near that standard. About the only thing not to change is the white point of D65 which carries over from the old standards.
Greyscale tracking is still greyscale tracking and the out-of-box results of the KS9000 weren’t exactly stellar. While the mix of red, green and blue was decent throughout, the EOTF tracking left a lot to be desired in the mid-tones, where it measures as too dark. Changing the gamma setting to +2 helped with that but it was still far from ideal. Compared to the recently reviewed KS9500, which we would have expected the KS9000 to be at least close to, in terms of performance, we were a little underwhelmed, in all honesty.One area where the KS9000 slightly out-performed the KS9500 was in the extent of its coverage of the Rec.2020 gamut, with nearly 72% reached which translates to around 97% of DCI P3. In fact, as per other Samsung’s we’ve measured in 2016, it seems the manufacturer is more interested in hitting the P3 standard, despite the fact it’s not one for domestic use, as colours tracked closer to it than Rec.2020. Also, as with previous reviews, the Auto colour space didn’t really do its job properly; prior to a software update Auto was stuck in Rec.709 which isn’t the case now but its colour tracking can only be described as all over the place and the results above were from the Native option which provides a more even spread. It’s still a case of could do better here for Samsung.
The general picture quality of the KS9000 is outstanding but if you're not in the sweet-spot, it's more compromised.
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosSamsung has long been a proponent of using VA type panels which results in good black levels and accompanying impressive contrast performance. Relatively speaking, Samsung’s TVs were a little lacking in this department, last year, but the 2016 SUHD TVs have returned to form. We measured an averaged black level 0.038 nits on the 65-inch KS9000, from a chequerboard pattern without any dimming engaged and, of course, lower with Smart LED either in Low or High. Our preferred setting, at least for Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content was the Low position but you don’t really get a choice with HDR, else the potential peak luminance (we measured 1048nits on a 2% window pattern) dips quite dramatically, to around 420nits, which will obviously impact the specular highlights in an HDR image. The issue with that is an increase in haloing effects around dark objects and a slightly more noticeable pulse as the backlight adjusts. It should be taken as read that a UHD Alliance Premium certified TV possesses great contrast and so the KS9000 does, with a calibrated On/Off ratio of 3,783:1 and an ANSI of around 2,900:1, in SDR mode. We should also make mention of the Moth Eye filter the 65KS9000 has equipped which does a really good job of rejecting ambient light and maintaining those impressive looking blacks, in challenging conditions.
Backlight UniformityThe UE65KS9000 doesn’t have a perfectly uniform backlight distribution but it is very good indeed. The two most noticeable spots of non-uniformity were situated at the bottom corners but were less than postage stamp size and non-distracting unless we fixated on them; we know some are prone to do just that but the majority of people keep their eyes toward the centre of the screen. Also, if staring at the bottom portion of the screen, there could be a 2cm (ish) band where it would be lighter than the rest of the panel, which is no doubt a result of the fact that Samsung has mounted the LEDs here in an effort to gain more over all light output. Again, we didn’t find it troubling but some might. In terms of uniformity on brighter content, the KS9000 was extremely impressive with virtually no panel banding witnessable, even with extensive viewing of Euro 2016 (we have to, it’s work, honestly) and we also didn’t once see a trace of dirty screen effect, which is nice.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesThese two factors of performance are more closely related than you might expect, possibly as a result of the curvature of the screen. The fact is that the dimming is far more effective when you’re sat square on to the screen of the KS9000 than if you’re off at an angle where we could see large plumes of light when objects were at the top or bottom of a generally dark screen. The difference from plumb on to off at an angle really is marked so we would say it’s a concern for some living room layouts, assuming those sat off-centre would notice, or even care. Our advice: get yourself sat in the best seat and don’t mention it. Judged from that position, the dimming for an edge-lit set is probably as good as we’ve seen and very agile. In terms of contrast and colour wash-out, that’s also present out of the sweet spot but there’s a definite improvement over the 2015 models here and we’d say it’s hardly noticeable at 45 degrees, or less, off centre.
Motion HandlingWe’ve seen a few glitches with the motion handling of high-end Samsung TVs, in the past, and now the present as the KS9000 occasionally gets tripped up with fast moving action, with or without the Motion Plus options enabled. There doesn’t seem to be much pattern to it but it’s easy to spot when you’re watching something like Football – yes, the Euros again – where the motion will stutter and splutter for a second or two before returning to normality. It’s a shame as otherwise we liked the motion handling but it could be the sort of picture anomaly that grates more over time. For the record, we don’t at all like the Auto Motion Plus settings, at default values, as it’s a horribly soapy presentation but we did feel the need to engage some mild judder reduction when watching UHD Blu-rays else some panning shots would stutter more than we’d like. Also for the record, we measured the motion resolution at 300 lines with Auto Motion Plus off and the full 1080 lines with it on but we’d take a spot of blur over the fake looking video-cam-esque look of the alternative.
Standard and High DefinitionWhile we had some complaints with the early 4K TVs over their ability to deinterlace broadcast 1080i, matters have definitely improved here with the KS9000, to the extent where you would be hard pressed to notice any difference between it and a high quality 1080p TV from years gone by. There have never been any issues with scaling high definition to an ultra high definition panel and, given a good source – especially a Blu-ray disc - with a fairly static scene, the resolution can and does look perceptibly improved, although this doesn’t remain the case with objects in motion. In other words, if, like us, the majority of your viewing is still made up of ‘Full HD’ content, there’s no downgrade watching it on an UHD TV as accomplished as the KS9000 and sometimes it’s an upgrade.
In terms of standard definition, and we try and avoid that wherever possible, attempting to make up the information for the near 8 million missing pieces of the equation – an SD TV has 414,720 pixels against 8,294,400 in a UHD TV – is never going to be an easy task for the scaling algorithms. In fairness, the Samsung does a reasonable job but the majority of broadcast SD is ropey in the first instance, to say the least, and that’s only magnified on a 65-inch screen. About the only content we found remotely watchable were some of the kids’ Disney DVDs, so at least the little ones might not complain. Moral of the story – if you happen to be one of those still with a significant diet of standard definition material, a 4K TV isn’t really for you.
Ultra HD & High Dynamic RangeWe were waiting for this review sample for quite some time while Samsung finalised a software update that brought with it the new HDR+ mode in to the Picture Menu. It’s a pseudo HDR effect, designed for non High Dynamic Range material which we found partially successful, although we can’t say we’re totally sold on it, however clever it may be. It works by analysing the hue and saturation of the source material within the native gamut of the panel and then the luminance of a particular scene to boost the gamma curve and broaden the dynamic range. In certain scenes and with come content, it works in giving images a real lift, although colours can look totally different – reddish hues can become blue, and vice versa - from the calibrated Rec.709 gamut while with others it can have seriously detrimental effects. We experimented while watching some games from the Euro’s (yes, it’s getting boring now) and found skin tones to look entirely unconvincing with some serious ‘clay-faces’ visible in the crowd and on the players. On the other hand, an episode of Bloodline (watch it!) was far more impressively handled and when we turned the processing off, it looked plain flat for a couple of minutes while our eyes reacclimatised. It’s a shame, although entirely understandable, that the HDR+ processing can’t be used in conjunction with the Game Mode as that could be spectacular. Our (at least my) recommendation would be to leave HDR+ off for critical viewing but by all means experiment with it for fun as, at times, it gives you some indication as to how the future of video will look.
Watching native HDR and Ultra HD was an entirely different matter. My UHD Blu-ray collection isn’t massive – The Revenant, Deadpool, Wild, San Andreas and Kingsman – but it’s sure to grow fairly rapidly as at least the first two of those titles look utterly mesmerising, nay spectacular, with incredible detail, mixed with expansive colour palettes and blistering specular highlights. Forget 3D, HDR is where it’s at if you want a video window in your living room. While not quite so good, but still great, Marco Polo streamed via Netflix is also well worth checking out on the KS9000 and our only criticism of its HDR performance is one we noted above. As you need to have Smart LED (i.e. the dimming system) on High to get the maximum available brightness of the panel, blooming effects from the backlight were far more noticeable than they were with it set to Low and, again, even more so when off-axis. It’s only really here when the limitations of an edge-lit lighting system is felt but that doesn’t stop us from being wowed with the HDR performance of the KS9000.
Sound QualityWe were pleasantly surprised by the audio quality present in the UE65KS9000. Naturally the width of the screen provides ample scope to produce a sound stage that is nice and wide but there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s a fullness to the audio where many other ultra-thin TVs lack anything in the way of mid-tones and, in contrast to the 55-inch version, the bass is decent too. We’re not for one moment suggesting that the KS9000 negates the ‘need’ for an out-board audio solution, as even a cheapish soundbar will outperform it but at least it means you won’t need to rush out and buy something when the realisation dawns that the flash new TV you’ve bought might produce stunning pictures but the sound output is nothing short of pathetic.
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionThere’s two good pieces of news for gamers with Samsung SUHD TVs; firstly, you won’t need to scroll through a load of menus to activate the Game Mode as it’s now (at last) sensibly placed in the Picture Menu. The other is that Samsung has clearly been working hard to reduce input latency and, using our Leo Bodnar Lag Tester, we measured it at just 21 milliseconds, which is a seriously low figure only a pro-gamer would baulk at. In fact, we’ve a third piece of gaming glad tidings, the super wide native colour space of the KS9000 renders some – and we’ll emphasise some – games to look utterly mind-boggling and we can’t wait until see some in HDR too.
The energy consumption of the Samsung KS9000 is pretty low, given all those pixels and all that brightness on offer. On a full window 50% white pattern we measured 137W in its default Standard picture mode and 90W in our calibrated Movie mode. This increased significantly in HDR mode, of course, with the UE65KS9000 consuming 287W at default settings.
Samsung UE65KS9000 Video Review
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 72% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 8 What do these mean?
- Great blacks & contrast
- Capable of high colour accuracy
- HDR looks stunning
- Dimming system is mostly effective
- Excellent processing
- Impressive screen uniformity
- Great smart features
- Very low input lag
- Dimming system blooms off-axis
- Occasional stuttering motion
- Doesn't track Rec.2020 well
- UK catch-up services missing
- No 3D
Samsung KS9000 (UE65KS9000) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?The Samsung UE65KS9000 is very close to as good as it gets in TV technology at this present time. The looks are gorgeous with a 360 degree design ethos and a striking curved screen and chassis, while the connectivity options are bang up-to-date and geared to the future with HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 compliance. Samsung has upped the usability factor of their 2016 TVs, too, with a pared down menu system and a new remote control which is so smart that it can control all of the equipment connected to the TV as well.
In terms of the Smart TV features, the KS9000 is also well blessed. The Tizen platform is beautifully presented in the form of a ribbon at the bottom of the screen and a pop-up suggestions bar above it. There are dozens of streaming services on offer, including Ultra HD/HDR services from Netflix and Amazon, integration with IoT (Internet of Things) appliances and equipment and the ability to play high quality games. The UK catch-up services are currently missing in action but due to land soon.
The out-of-the-box accuracy of the 65KS9000 was decent, rather than stellar but the calibration controls are certainly sufficient to gain incredible fidelity to the SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) standards, at least. We would have like to have seen a similar performance in the factory HDR settings but Samsung - as other manufacturers - seem more interested in the DCI P3 colour space than the Rec.2020 they should be concentrating on.
Still, that didn't stop the Samsung looking utterly stunning with HDR material, whether from disc or streamed. The dimming system is highly impressive, although not so much from off-centre of the screen, while black levels and contrast are excellent, thanks in part to the highly effective moth-eye filter. The KS9000 also deals with lesser resolutions as well as can be expected with some 1080p content looking like it was of a higher resolution, although there is the occasional break down in image processing with the odd spot of stuttering motion handling.
The Samsung UE65KS9000 really does fulfill its brief as a premium Ultra HD TV and definitely merits its AVForums Highly Recommended Award.
What else is there?We'll give you two alternatives in a similar price-bracket and with comparable performance. First, we would suggest taking a look at the Panasonic TX-65DX902B, which is a flat screen model and can be had for just a whisker under £3,000 but boasts a full array backlight, rather than the edge based system with the KS9000. The other is the 65inch Sony XD93 which is also edge-based and, broadly speaking, performs very similarly to the Samsung but the HDR accuracy is better, although the dimming is not quite so good.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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